Choosing The Right Style of Shotgun

So you’re looking to join the scattergun ranks but not quite sure where to begin… Well, don’t you worry, the team at Mid Valley Clays Shooting School has you covered. We’ll help you along your journey and ensure you pick just the shotgun you’re looking for! We’ll break down the different uses, variations, and finally, some specific characteristics which may lead one or another to better suit your needs.

What is your primary use for the gun?
Shotguns are highly versatile, some filling a particular niche, and some all-purpose shotguns can be quite useful across multiple use-cases from bird hunting to shooting skeet and even home defense. But there are, of course, some variants that lend themselves better to specific uses, and it makes sense to choose a shotgun not necessarily for all it can do but for how well it can do that one thing you want it for. For instance, if you are looking for a home defense shotgun, something with a shorter barrel, allowing for greater mobility through doorways and tight hallways, makes a ton of sense. If you want to go duck hunting, a longer barrel provides increased accuracy at greater distances. If you’re planning on shooting skeet or clays, perhaps getting a semi-automatic makes sense for your needs.

Whats your budget?
Shopping for a shotgun is a fun experience, both from a research and comparison standpoint, as well as the excitement that builds knowing you will very soon be learning how to use your new firearm. But setting yourself a budget and perhaps a little wiggle room is essential, so you don’t feel self-conscious or worried you overspent. Shotguns come in price ranges of a few hundred dollars to the 10’s of thousands of dollars. Not to mention the accessories you will undoubtedly want to add to your shotgun to make it truly a one-of-a-kind firearm. For a beginner or first-time shotgun owner, we recommend setting yourself a healthy budget in that $800 range, providing you with a bit of wiggle room. If you’re a more experienced shooter, it is difficult to make a price recommendation, but we can help you try out a few shotguns you have your eye on to help you determine which shotgun is the one for you.

Are you interested in a classic break-action, a pump-action, or a semi-auto?
Break-action shotguns are your over-under (o/u) and your side-by-sides. They are most popular among clay target shooters and upland bird hunters. With double barrels, these shotguns tend to be on the heavier side, which can be a positive and a negative. The added weight makes swinging on a moving target more fluid but is, of course, quite a bit more to lug around. Break-action shotguns start at about $1,500 and go up depending on materials and engraving.

Pump-action shotguns are some of the most popular due to their reliability and affordability. Hunters and people interested in home defense often go with a pump-action shotgun. You can get a brand-new one for as low as $200.

Semi-automatic shotguns are popular for 3-gun competitions, clay-target sports, home defense, and hunting. A semi-automatic, unlike a pump-action, automatically champers the next shell after each shell is fired. As a result, they tend to have a lighter recoil than a pump or break-action but take more effort when it comes to cleaning and caring for them. Semi-automatic shotguns start in the $600 range and go up to $2,500 for a really nice one.

What Gauge are you looking for?
The 12 gauge is far and away the most versatile, handling a full range of loads. It is also the easiest to find ammunition for. Many shooters find it easier to shoot well with a gun that’s a little more substantial with a smooth swing. There’s a reason 12 gauge is king, and deservedly so.

The 16 gauge is a bit of an in-between gauge, an upland classic. Some people say it carries like a 20 and hits like a 12.

20 gauge is a capable performer, strong enough for ducks, procuring ammunition is easy, and it makes a great starter gun for many. With advancements in slugs, the 20s are said to have become the equal of 12s in a lower-recoil package.

The 28 gauge is perfect for smaller birds and short-range clays. At ranges of 30-35 yards, the light-kicking 28 hits with reasonable force.

The .410 has historically been seen as a starter gauge for children due to the light nature of the firearm and the lightest recoil. In actuality, the shells are expensive due to not being a popular gauge and are better off in the hands of an expert target shooter. Nevertheless, the .410 is a fun squirrel hunting and clay target gauge that is having a bit of a resurgence. Some manufacturers are even marketing .410 turkey guns.

But for your first shotgun, we recommend you go with either the 12 or 20-gauge. They’ll do everything you need them to do, are easiest to find ammunition for, and you can’t go wrong with either of them.

As you can see, a lot goes into selecting your first shotgun or your next shotgun. We highly recommend starting your journey with a professional like the people you will find at Mid Valley Clays and Shooting School. We know the questions to ask to help you find the perfect gun for your needs. And we have a ton of shotguns you can rent, so you can truly feel out the differences between a long barrel and a short, a break-action and a pump, and everywhere in between. And once you’ve purchased that new firearm, we’ll help you master it! Till next time.